The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
July 29, 2018
Let Nothing Be Wasted!
Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the miraculous signs he had performed on the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Feast was near. When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten. After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself. (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
It’s pretty obvious that you and I live in a “throwaway” society. For example, in the neighborhood where we lived in Michigan you could put just about anything down by the curb and it would be gone in a short amount of time. If the guy who drove around the neighborhood in a pickup truck did not take it, you knew the garbage men would take it on trash day. If your television or your microwave goes on the fritz it will cost you almost as much— if not more— to repair it than to replace it. So, when something breaks we usually just throw it away and buy a new one. How many times have we been guilty of throwing out perfectly good food simply because we are not fond of eating “leftovers”? It’s pretty obvious that you and I do indeed live in a “throwaway” society.
It should not surprise us, however, that the good Lord never subscribes to this “throwaway” attitude. It should not surprise us that the good Lord never “wastes” anything. Instead, the Lord our God uses every opportunity, every resource, everything He is and everything He has for us and for our salvation.
Our sermon text for today gives us an opportunity to see that the “throwaway” attitude of our society is not an attitude that we want to simply subscribe to without even giving it a second thought. Our sermon theme for this morning then comes directly from our text as we hear Jesus Himself say to us: Let Nothing Be Wasted! There are two things that we want to see today. First, let’s see how Jesus lived by those words. Then let’s see how we are to live by those words as well.
As our text for this morning begins John reminds us that a “great crowd of people” followed Jesus “because they saw the miraculous signs he had performed on the sick.” Jesus never wasted an opportunity to help others, did He! Whether it was healing the sick, having compassion on people because they were like “sheep without a shepherd” (Mark 6:34) or speaking to the people about the kingdom of God (Luke 9:11) — Jesus never wasted the opportunities He was given.
That truth is emphasized in three different ways here in our text for this morning. First, look at verses 5 & 6. John writes, “When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?’ He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.” Let nothing be wasted! We see how Jesus lived by these words as He used this opportunity to “test” His disciples. As the eternal Son of God Jesus, of course, already knew how He was going to provide food for this huge crowd of hungry people. Jesus’ question therefore was designed to see how His disciples would react to this situation. Remember, my friends, that Jesus’ disciples had already seen Him perform many many glorious miracles. Were these disciples simply “dazzled” by Jesus’ power or had they truly taken to heart what those miracles revealed about this Rabbi from Nazareth? Would these disciples be able to distinguish between the severely limited power and resources of man and the unlimited power and resources of God? Unfortunately, Jesus’ own disciples did not do so well, did they. Philip responded to this test by saying, “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” Andrew’s response to this test was not much better. He said to Jesus, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” If this situation had simply been left for the disciples to solve on their own it would have been a wasted opportunity.
Oftentimes we are not all that different from Jesus’ disciples here in our text. There are times when the good Lord allows us to find ourselves in a situation in life that appears to be hopeless and completely overwhelming. Then He comes to us and asks, “What shall we do to solve this problem?” Jesus, of course, already knows how He is going to solve every problem He allows to come into our life. But sometimes He still “tests” us just as He “tested” His disciples here in our text. Will we look at the situation that we find ourselves in and simply throw up our hands and say, “I can’t do this!”? Or, will we humbly remember the words of passages such as Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” When we find ourselves in a situation that seems completely hopeless do we stumble in our faith and say, “I don’t have the strength, I don’t have the resources to solve this situation!”? Or, do we confidently remember the words that the angel Gabriel once spoke to the young virgin Mary, “Nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). Unless you and I are dramatically different from the disciples here in our text we need to consciously make sure that we do not waste the opportunities that the good Lord gives to us. Even the situations that look completely hopeless, even the situations that are completely overwhelming are situations that God uses to “test” our faith so that our faith in Him, in His power and in His might can be strengthened. Don’t waste the opportunities that God brings into your life!
The second way in which Jesus lived by the words Let nothing be wasted! is found in the way in which He miraculously provided food for this huge crowd of hungry people. Look at verses 12 &13, “When they all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, ‘Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.’ So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.”
This is the portion of our text that is probably the easiest to understand. At the same time this is the portion of our text that is impossible to comprehend! Picture in your mind what took place here. After giving thanks for the five small barley loaves and two small fish Jesus gave some bread and fish to each of the disciples who in turn gave it to the people. Each time the disciples came back for more— Jesus gave them more! Over and over again the disciples came back to Jesus. Over and over again Jesus gave them what they needed. Miraculously the bread and the fish did not run out! The more Jesus gave, the more there was to give!
Jesus’ power to feed well over 5,000 people with just a small amount of food— and have more left over than what He started with— this kind of power goes well beyond our comprehension. What is much easier for us to understand is why Jesus said to His disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” What Jesus is teaching us here goes far beyond simply remembering all the starving people in this world so that we do not foolishly waste our food. Jesus is teaching us an object lesson in Christian stewardship. Whatever blessings the good Lord has given to you— whether material blessings such as food, clothing and money or intangible blessings such as the ability to work with your mind or the ability to work with your hands— Jesus comes to us and He says, “Do not let those gifts be wasted!” Faithfully use the gifts that God has graciously given to you, my friends! Use them to the glory of His Name! Let nothing be wasted!
That leaves us with the final point we want to emphasize this morning. Look at the closing verse of our text. John writes, “After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, ‘Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.’ Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.”
The miraculous sign that Jesus performed reminded the people of “the Prophet” who Moses said would come into this world. Sadly, while many of God’s people correctly understood that “the Prophet” would also be the Messiah, they completely misunderstood why “the Prophet,” why the Messiah, why Jesus came into this world. These people simply saw Jesus as a “bread king”— someone who could miraculously and wonderfully provide for all their worldly wants and all their earthly needs. They were even prepared to make Jesus king “by force” if necessary.
Stop to think of what a colossal waste that would have been, my friends. Imagine if Jesus had allowed the people to make Him their “bread king.” Instead of proclaiming the Truth of God’s holy Word, instead of living a perfect life in our place, instead of suffering and dying to pay for our sins, instead of rising from the dead to guarantee to us eternal life in heaven, instead of being “the bread of life” (John 6:35) — instead of coming into this world to serve us as our Savior, imagine if Jesus focused on making our life here on this earth a “bed of roses,” but simply left us on our own when it comes to preparing for eternity! Imagine what a tragic waste that would have been!
Since Jesus did not waste His life but rather freely spent His entire life serving us— we now need to humbly and thankfully strive to do the very same thing for Him. It would be extremely easy for us to waste our life by spending our life accumulating the possessions and enjoying the pleasures that this world has to offer. But eventually our life here will most certainly come to an end. Then we face eternity. Wasting our life here could easily result in forfeiting eternity in our heavenly Father’s home. But, focusing our life on the cross of our Savior (Pointing to the cross), faithfully gathering together around His holy Word and Sacrament, freely prioritizing our life so that our Lord and Savior always comes first will insure that we don’t forfeit the true treasures that our God has waiting for us beyond the grave.
It’s pretty obvious that you and I do indeed live in a “throwaway” society. All you have to do is walk down your street on the day they pick up the trash and you can see that truth in action. My prayer then this morning, my fiends, is that every time you throw something away and every time you take out the trash that you will remember the words of your Savior, “Let nothing be wasted.” When the good Lord uses various situations in life to “test” your faith don’t waste that opportunity to learn from Him and to grow even stronger in your relationship with Him. When the good Lord grants you blessings— whether those blessings are material or spiritual, tangible or intangible— don’t waste those blessings. Faithfully use them for the glory of God. And when you lift up your eyes to the cross (Pointing to the cross) and see that the Lord did not waste His life but rather spent His life serving you— let His cross motivate you to follow in His footsteps. Don’t waste your life but rather spend your life thankfully and humbly serving Him. Let nothing be wasted!
To God be the glory!